A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS BABBITT DD-128
The Tin Can Sailor, January 2006
The BABBITT (DD-128) was launched on 30 September 1918 by the New York
Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 24
October 1919. She reported to the Pacific Fleet where she operated until
going out of commission at San Diego on 15 June 1922. Recommissioned on 4
April 1930, the BABBITT served along the West Coast until February 1931 when
she proceeded to the Atlantic.
Between February 1931 and May 1932 she operated with the Destroyer
Squadron, Scouting Force along the eastern seaboard, in the West Indies, the
Gulf of Mexico, and in the Canal Zone. She, then, moved on to the Naval
Torpedo Station, Newport, and in 1933 made a cruise to Chile conducting
exercises with experimental torpedoes. Duty with Rotating Reserve Destroyer
Squadron 19 at Norfolk took her into January 1935. Over the next four years
her duties included reserve training with the scouting force, midshipman
cruises, and a two year assignment with the Special Service Squadron in
Cuban and Puerto Rican waters. In April 1939 she participated in the opening
of the New York World’s Fair.
In early January 1941, the BABBITT joined the LEARY (DD-158) and SCHENCK
(DD-159) of DesRon 27 on neutrality patrol escorting convoys in the Yucatan
Channel. Later, she patrolled between Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and San Juan,
Puerto Rico. In October 1941, she and the LEARY steamed north to Argentia,
Nova Scotia. There the BABBITT escorted cargo ships bound for Britain. The
convoys traveled the northern shipping lanes between Argentia and Rekjavik,
Iceland, dubbed “Hell’s Highway” because of the German U-boat threat and
notoriously rough seas.
The BABBITT had radar equipment installed in November 1941 and rejoined the
LEARY on neutrality patrol. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, she was
back on Hell’s Highway battling the seas and German wolf packs that sank
1,161 merchantmen in 1942. She earned a battle star for defending Convoy
SC-121 during a U-boat attack between 3 and 10 March 1943.
In May 1943, she assumed a new route, escorting tankers from New York to
Curacao where they took on oil and gasoline and steamed for North Africa.
Her first transatlantic convoy was to Casablanca. She made a second to
Casablanca in July 1943. Other convoys took her to Aruba and Bizerta.
Late in October 1943, the BABBITT joined a hunter-killer group of carriers
and their escorts, but after a week had to return to the New York Navy Yard
for repairs. She was underway again in December, escorting a cargo ship to
the Azores, where she had to be relieved by the BIDDLE (DD-151) to return to
New York for engine repair.
In February 1944, her last wartime convoy to Africa took her to Casablanca
and, then, back to New York in early April. New escort duties kept her
busy, shuttling between New York, Norfolk, and Galveston, Texas, until
mid-summer. On 10 July, she left New York as submarine lookout with the
supply ship SATURN, bound for Bermuda, Guantanamo Bay, and San Juan, and
returned to New York at month’s end.
Following another trip to the Caribbean, she joined stores ship YUKON
(AF-9), dodging icebergs en route to Reykjavik, Greenland. At 1551 on 22
September, the two ships had just entered Reykjavik’s channel when the YUKON
reported that she had struck something under water. The BABBITT began a
search of the area. Following a second jolt, the stores ship’s crew went to
general quarters and two minutes later, lookouts saw a torpedo pass behind
the ship and explode about 1,500 yards to port. As the BABBITT attempted to
locate what they assumed was a submarine, the YUKON began evasive maneuvers.
At 1557, a torpedo struck her bow, opening her starboard side from the stem
aft some 60 feet, and a dangerous crack appeared across the vessel
amidships. The U-boat made its escape, and the BABBITT escorted the crippled
ship into Reykjavik for temporary repairs.
By 27 October, the destroyer was serving as plane guard for carriers
conducting pilot training out of Quonset, Rhode Island. She ended the year
in the Boston Navy Yard for overhaul and installation of experimental sound
gear. On 2 February 1945, the BABBITT entered a new phase of her career when
she reported to the Underwater Sound Laboratory at New London, Connecticut,
for experimental sonar work. On 10 June 1945 her classification was changed
to AG-102, and she remained on experimental duty until December 1945 when
she entered New York Navy Yard for pre-inactivation overhaul. The BABBITT
was decommissioned on 25 January 1946 and sold 5 June 1946.